By Syed Faisal ur Rahman
I think most people who use Facebook or twitter regularly are now aware of the Sharmeen Chinoy tweet issue. I do not like the gossip part of the issue but the whole saga also highlights some important issues related to the use of social media by professionals in different fields so I decided to give my opinion on the subject.
I am not sure if the Agha Khan University (AKU) doctor searched her intentionally (using Sharmeen’s sister’s email address or mobile phone numbers) or Facebook suggested a friend and he just clicked it to increase his network as many people in other professions do. Facebook algorithm can suggest friends based on locality of smart phones, frequent visit to the same place, some common friends or even interests. Many people often add people casually just to increase their network especially those involved in consultancy related professions. In fact many marketing trainers suggest about increasing the network especially in influential or rich circles (I think Chinnoy falls in both).
People have the option to restrict Facebook invitations and also have the option to restrict their visibility on the network. Harassment is about not giving consent. One time request (intentionally or by just casually clicking the Facebook suggestion link) is not harassment as per Facebook’s own rules.
People also have the option to control who can search them using email or mobile numbers. This can be found in the privacy part under “Who can look me up?” section.
Users also have the option to reject the request which means they used their right to say no. However, repeatedly targeting other people with unwanted friend requests comes under harassment as per the Facebook policy guidelines. People who are on the network should use the network accordingly.
Also, if someone is not only sending unwanted requests but also sending threats or lewd messages or clearly bullying messages then this will not be just a violation of the Facebook community guidelines but this will also come under the cyber crime activity. However,it seems no such thing was done by the doctor in discussion.
In this case, AKU, Sharmeen Chinnoy, the doctor and others should look into the issue based on the network they are using. We also need to see if AKU and PMDC have any policy guidelines or not.
I am also not sure if the doctor was an IT savvy person or was just trying to get in the professional networking thing using tech (LinkedIn is better for this though but people try to do it through Facebook or twitter as well).
In my view Sharmeen and her sister should have filed a complaint with the AKU administration first in a private manner and the accused doctor should have been given a fair chance to explain his position in a fair way without any theatrics involved.
There is also a need for the institutions to clearly define the code of conduct of their members on social media so that they do not end up getting in trouble in the future.